The fifth annual Independent Bookstore Day (IBD) takes place on Saturday, April 27, with 580 stores participating, up from 507 last year. The largest concentration of participants is in the New England and Mid-Atlantic region, where a total of more than 170 stores have signed on according to the IBD map; California has the next largest number of participants, at 95, with the Midwest counting 93 stores participating. The American Booksellers Association, Penguin Random House and Ingram are the principle sponsors of the day, and novelist Tayari Jones is serving as IBD ambassador.
“The big change in over past five years has been that metropolitan areas created their own citywide celebrations,” says IBD program director Samantha Schoech. “For example, San Diego started two years ago and now The San Diego Bookstore Crawl has already become a must-attend.”
Numerous major cities around the country have established citywide programs, which encourage customers and book buyers to traverse the city and visit multiple bookstores on the day, where they can get an IBD passport stamped. Typically, getting one’s passport stamped at multiple locations will unlock discounts and qualify the customer to enter into raffles for additional prizes. Cities with programs include Boston (14 stores participating), Minneapolis and St. Paul (19 stores), Chicago (28 stores) and Seattle (26 stores), among others. In Massachusetts, 20 stores are participating in the Cape Cod & Islands Bookstore Trail, which launches on Saturday and encourages customers to visit stores all throughout 2019.
In some instances, an entire state is participating. The Connecticut Independent Bookstore Day Passport Program has 17 stores taking part. Anyone who visits all the participating bookstores over the weekend will win a Passport Prize: a 20% coupon from each store and be entered into a Grand Prize raffle. Five people will be drawn at random to win a Grand Prize of a $50 gift card from each store. In Vermont, 20 stores have created the Vermont Independent Bookstore Passport, while 15 stores are part of Rhode Island Independent Bookstore Day.
In California, the Northern California Independent Booksellers Association gave book lovers the entire month of April to get their passport stamped; while the focus was on promoting bookstores in the Bay Area, shoppers who traveled further afield were awarded extra “points,” which are good toward earning entries in a raffle for gift certificates.
“What we have done [with IBD] is create a sense of a holiday and that brings people into stores,” says Schoech.
The appeal of IBD to booksellers is that it gives them the opportunity to promote themselves to their local communities and, in many instances, highlight what they offer customers in contrast to major competitors Amazon and Barnes & Noble. To do this, most participating stores will offer special events throughout the day, such as story times and author readings, as well as provide exclusive items for sale.
This year, there are more than 20 exclusive items, including a pouch promoting Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie’s book We Should All Be Feminists, an enamel pin that reads “Fight Evil, Read Books,” and stenciled artwork with a quote from Susan Sontag: “Courage is as contagious as fear.” Schoech says she is personally excited that IBD, together with HarperCollins, is offering an exclusive a vinyl record featuring a previously unreleased recording of Charles Bukowski being interviewed.
Asked if publishers have begun to capitalize on the popularity of the day to release new works, Schoech noted that many are offering special editions of lead titles with IBD-exclusive covers, such as Miriam Toews’ Women Talking (Bloomsbury) and Why Don’t You Write My Eulogy Now So I Can Correct It? By Patricia Marx and Roz Chast (Celadon Press). “Publishers are loyal to having Tuesday as their on-sale date for books," she says, "but this year we will have W.W. Norton releasing an early edition of Chuck Palahniuk’s new novel, Adjustment Day, several days early, on IBD.”
Totebags are a popular item on IBD and this year the organization has produced 6,000, with artwork by Jane Mount, the artist behind the Ideal Bookshelf. "Last year, we did only 1,300 totes, but had financial sponsorship form Chronicle Books, and are able to offer stores the totes at an 85% discount," says Schoech. In all, Ingram expects to have shipped more than 100,000 IBD-related items to stores prior to the day.
Finally, digital retailers have found a way to participate as well. Independent bookstore audiobook retailer Libro.fm is offering indie store shoppers a selection of five free audiobook titles, including The Blackhouse by Peter May (Hachette), Mothers' Group by Liane Moriarty (Macmillan), and a Penguin Random House sampler..
E-bookseller Hummingbird Digital Media, whose My Must Read platform is integrated into the ABA’s IndieCommerce platform, is offering a selection of eight e-book titles from HarperCollins and Hachette at $2.99 or less. These include Animal, Vegetable, Miracle by Barbara Kingsolver, regularly $11.99, will sell for $2.99 and Your Duck Is My Duck by Deborah Eisenberg, which is regularly $12.99, and will sell for $2.99.
“Our mission is two-fold,” says Scheoch, who will begin IBD at Green Apple Books in San Francisco, which is co-owned by her husband, before traveling around the city. “First, we want to drive awareness and let people know indie stores are thriving all over the place, but in order for them to survive you actually have to shop there. Second, we really just want to get people into stores on that day. We want to people to know that we are here and it is fun to shop in independent bookstores.”